An all-female team of mostly Loyola Marymount University students placed second overall and first in the CodePen’s “Best Front- End Design” category at the first-ever Rose Hack, a 24-hour-long hackathon with a women-centric focus, hosted by UC Riverside.
“I think events like Rose Hack can have a positive influence on young women since it shows them what women are capable of,” said Maddie Louis, a sophomore in the LMU Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering. “And it can provide women with role models in their field of interest.”
A hackathon such as Rose Hack is a weekend-long event where teams of aspiring programmers plan and present projects to colleagues and mentors to foster students’ interest in related STEM fields. Rose Hack featured 27 teams that created a wide variety of projects, such as a version of Pac-Man in virtual reality built with the Unity game engine or a web application that connects college students with people in their communities willing to cook and sell home-cooked meals.
The team was made up of three LMU students, computer science major Louis, electrical engineering major Megan West, with animation major Kaitlyn Behrens and UCSD computer science and math major Shauna Sapper.
“I worked mostly on the graph and behind-the-scenes parts of the project,” recounted Louis, “Shauna worked on the forms on the left side of the page that allow the user to select buildings, Megan mapped out where nodes should go on the page, and Kaitlyn drew original art that made the user interface beautiful!”
The project the team developed was a web application called Classpath, which functions as a navigation tool by mapping LMU’s campus on a graph and by creating paths between buildings. Classpath then finds the best paths, routes, and shortcuts to get from one building to another on LMU’s campus without having to take the longest path that an alternative navigator like Google Maps might suggest.
“So, for example, while a regular mapping service might not know that you are able to walk through LSB to get to Pereira Quad,” Louis explained. “Since we put nodes on the doors of LSB, Classpath knows that that is a viable option, and may be far faster than walking around.”
Women-centric hackathons, Louis argues, have enormously helped women enter traditionally male-dominated career paths in science and technology by encouraging women to collaborate on projects they can be proud of in a positive environment.